Chris Bell Interview
by: Rod Rice, October 16, 2006 12:10:00 am
Chris Bell says public education in Texas doesn't need to be fixed; it needs to be changed and improved. One key problem, he says, is the TAKS test.
"Taking standardized tests is fine, using them as one diagnostic tool, one measuring stick is fine, but the high stakes nature of that testing has completely gutted the curriculum in public schools throughout the state of Texas and has contributed to us having the highest dropout rate. Basing a decision as to whether a child will move forward in school, how a school will be ranked and now how much merit pay a teacher will receive, all the outcome of one single test is absolutely absurd. We are going to have to get serious about retooling public schools and redesigning the curriculum."
Bell believes the state's economy would benefit if Texas was a leader in developing and producing alternative energy sources. He also says stem cell research could be a boon to the Texas economy.
"We've basically sent out a message that we're not going to fund stem cell research here in the state of Texas while we're perfectly positioned to be a leader in that regard, one other reason for favoring that kind of research and development. And I think we always have to be conscious of job creation and the fact the we have a tremendous number of working poor here in the state of Texas and as a result just about the highest number of children growing up in poverty. That's one reason I've called for an increase in the minimum wage. Other states are stepping up and taking the initiative on their one and raising their minimum wage because they see the federal government is not going to do so. Given the financial challenge so many families face here in the state of Texas I think it's time that we do the same."
Bells says Texas has too many people living without health insurance.
"And there again other states are trying to be innovative. Congress has shown no inclination to deal with the crisis. I don't think we can just sit back and twiddle our thumbs. Especially the cuts that were made to the Children's Health Insurance Program in 2003. They haven't been fully restored. They need to be. There is no reason one of the wealthiest states in the entire country can not find a way to provide heath insurance for all young people growing up here, that's inexcusable."
Bell says he has a comprehensive environmental plan that includes demands that utilities use the cleanest technology available.
"We really need to get serious about cracking down on polluters and stop making it profitable for people to pollute."
Bell says state parks are being allowed to deteriorate and that is shocking.
"I think the tax on the sporting goods tax needs to be removed and all that money needs to be going to support our state parks system and I think there would be wide spread support for that."